Imagine a scenario in which a pedestrian is struck by a car while crossing a street in Boston. The pedestrian might have been looking at their phone, and the driver of the car might have been exceeding the speed limit. In such cases, determining who is at fault isn’t always straightforward. This is where the concept of comparative fault comes into play.

What is Comparative Fault?

Personal injury claims in Boston, like in many other jurisdictions, are often influenced by the concept of comparative fault. Comparative fault, also known as comparative negligence, is a legal principle used in personal injury cases to determine the proportion of fault each party bears for the accident or injury. 

The concept is rooted in the idea that accidents often result from a combination of actions or omissions by multiple parties, and it seeks to assign liability fairly based on the parties’ contributions to the incident.

Under comparative fault, both the plaintiff and the defendant can be found partially at fault for the injury. The judge or jury will assess the evidence and allocate a percentage of fault to each party involved in the case. This percentage is then used to reduce the plaintiff’s recovery in proportion to their own negligence.

Types of Comparative Fault

There are two main types of comparative fault systems: pure comparative fault and modified comparative fault.

Pure Comparative Fault

In states that follow the pure comparative fault system, a plaintiff can recover damages even if they are primarily responsible for the accident. In other words, the plaintiff can be 99% at fault for their injuries and still recover 1% of the damages from the defendant. This system allows for an equitable distribution of liability, ensuring that each party is held accountable for their share of the fault.

Modified Comparative Fault

In states like Massachusetts which follow the modified comparative fault system, there are variations depending on the jurisdiction. Some states adhere to a “50% bar rule,” while others follow a “51% bar rule.”

  • 50% Bar Rule: In states that adopt the 50% bar rule, a plaintiff cannot recover any damages if their fault exceeds 50%. However, if their fault is 50% or less, they can still recover damages, but their award will be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault.
  • 51% Bar Rule: States that follow the 51% bar rule are a bit less restrictive. A plaintiff cannot recover any damages if their fault exceeds 51%. If their fault is 51% or less, they can recover damages, but only up to the percentage of fault assigned to the defendant. For example, if the plaintiff is found 40% at fault and the defendant 60% at fault, the plaintiff can recover 60% of their damages.

How Does Comparative Fault  Affect a Personal Injury Case?

Comparative fault has a significant impact on personal injury cases in Boston and throughout Massachusetts. Understanding how it can affect your case is crucial for both plaintiffs and defendants.

Plaintiff’s Perspective

For plaintiffs, the concept of comparative fault can be both an advantage and a challenge. On one hand, it allows plaintiffs to recover damages even if they share some degree of fault for their injuries. This can be particularly helpful in cases where the defendant tries to shift blame onto the plaintiff. However, it also means that the plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced based on their own negligence.

For example, if a pedestrian is hit by a car while jaywalking and is found to be 20% at fault for the accident, their potential compensation will be reduced by 20%. If their total damages amount to $100,000, they will only be entitled to recover $80,000 from the defendant.

Defendant’s Perspective

From the defendant’s perspective, comparative fault can be a valuable defense strategy. If the defendant can establish that the plaintiff was partially responsible for the accident, it can reduce their liability and the amount they may have to pay in damages. It’s essential for the defendant to gather evidence and present a compelling case to demonstrate the plaintiff’s contributory negligence.

The Bottom Line

Comparative fault or negligence is a fundamental legal principle that significantly impacts personal injury claims in Boston and Massachusetts as a whole. It allows for a fair allocation of responsibility among the parties involved, ensuring that both plaintiffs and defendants are held accountable for their respective contributions to an accident or injury.

Whether you are a plaintiff seeking compensation for your injuries or a defendant facing a personal injury lawsuit, it is crucial to consult with experienced personal injury attorneys in Boston who can navigate the complexities of comparative fault and help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

At Swartz & Swartz, a renowned Boston-based law firm with a stellar track record in personal injury cases, our experienced attorneys understand the intricacies of comparative fault and can provide expert guidance to clients. With a deep understanding of Massachusetts law, we are well-equipped to represent plaintiffs seeking fair compensation or defendants seeking to mitigate their liability in personal injury claims. Our commitment to achieving justice for our clients remains unwavering, making us a trusted choice in the legal landscape of Boston and beyond. Whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant, we are here to help you navigate the challenges posed by comparative fault and secure the best possible outcome for your case. 

So, what are you waiting for? Get in touch with our attorneys and discuss your case today!

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If you or someone you know, needs help from a lawyer, contact the law offices of Swartz & Swartz, use our live chat, or send us a message using the form below and we’ll get in touch to assess your case and how we can help.

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About the Author: James Swartz
Mr. Swartz, our Managing and Principal Attorney at Swartz & Swartz P.C., is a nationally recognized and respected trial attorney as well as consumer advocate. His practice focuses on cases involving negligence, torts, products liability, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and other claims involving catastrophic injuries.

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